It seems rather appropriate to be writing this today, a day that is the shortest of the year, and one which heralds a return to the light as the days progressively stretch out to the blissful peak that is the Summer Solstice.
When my own children were small I delighted in reading the Brambley Hedge books with them, not least of all because of the beautiful illustrations, but my favourite was always The Winter Story. The mice in the story had previously gathered in a successful harvest and threw a ball to help them through the long dark nights. They gave thanks that they had what they needed to survive the winter, and rejoiced in the year just about to end, surrounded by their loved ones. Merry Midwinter they chorused to one another, and whatever your spiritual or religious persuasion, I've always thought this to be such a wonderful sentiment; a celebration of the close of the year and, imortantly, looking ahead with optimism and joy to the next, safe in the knowledge that the darkest days are behind you.
For many, this time of year is especially difficult, and I for one breathe a little more easily when the 21st December comes around. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I never really feel ready to celebrate it until this date had passed. For me, It's the start of a new cycle, rather than the end of the old one, but maybe that's just me!
Certainly this time last year, I was feeling particularly gloomy. I didn't feel as if I had achieved very much and my job was becoming more and more difficult. My writing didn't seem to be going anywhere, and all the time and hard work I had invested felt fruitless. I even had some serious thoughts about giving it all up, and going back to 'normal.' But then the wheel turned and I began to feel better, my normal spirit returning, and I decided to give it all I could come the new Year.... and well, what a year!
As many of you will know I was lucky enough to gain a place on the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme, and it gave me a real focus to try and achieve things. I beavered on. I learned lots of new things, met some wonderful people, both in person and on the pages of Facebook and Twitter and then suddenly around May time, for some reason I still have yet to fathom, Letting in Light started to sell... and then it started to sell really well. By August I had an agent, interest from two major publishers, and come September a firm offer of a two book deal with Amazon publishing. I signed with them in early November. Oh, and I also published my lovely Christmas novella, Merry Mistletoe.
By December I was in the thick of structural edits for Letting in Light, (as Amazon will re-publish it next year), and having sent them back a week early I'm thrilled with the result. It really is the book I never dreamed it could be. The first draft of its sequel is nearly finished and, don't breathe a word of this because I haven't even told my agent yet, but I have plans for four more novellas next year, which will tie in beautifully with both Merry Mistletoe and Letting in Light and its sequel. I'm excited beyond belief.
And that job that was becoming very difficult?... well quite by chance a wonderful opportunity arose in October time, and I have been allowed to take voluntary redundancy from my post. I will leave in mid January. It's something that's very scary and a huge risk, but at the same time utterly, mind blowingly, wonderful. It has bought me time, and for a few months at least I can enjoy being a full time writer. This time, whatever I choose to do will be something which fits around my writing and not the other way around. It's a very liberating feeling.
So, to end what will be my final post of the year, I would like to send out heartfelt thanks to all who have helped to make this year such a special one for me, but also, just as importantly to those feeling just as I was this time last year, don't ever give up, not for a minute.
I wish you all a perfect, stress free, happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas, but above all I wish you the joy of hope.